Saturday, 17 April 2010

And what if no planes flew again?

Volcanic ash, empty airports, travel chaos, empty skies of streakless blue.  I know it is a problem: our daughter in law and grandson are trying to get back from Florida and our other daughter in law's parents are stuck in Mumbai.  But a little voice inside my head plays with the idea of a world with no flight, with travel slow and the world made huge again.  Would we all go back to holidaying in Scarborough as I did as a child, with no more overcooked Brits shouting and peeling their way around the Mediterranean?

We'd have to give up Kenyan beans and Spanish tomatoes and at last treat seriously the idea that we should grow the food for our country in our country.  What would that do to farming and food prices?  I know we would devastate the livelihoods of the Kenyan producers.  I'm not saying it would be some kind of Utopia, but how very different it would be.

All those middle class kids trogging round Thailand in their gap year would be reduced to interrailing around Europe, not a bad thing perhaps.  All those business trips to the US and the Far East which couldn't happen any more unless we reinstated the big cruise ships sailing the Atlantic.  There would be video conferencing and virtual meetings.  We would all still connect with one another across by world by virtue of the internet, but physically moving people and products around the globe would become slow and costly and a huge contributor to climate change would go at a stroke.

Would we look after the world better if we were more tied to our own place again?  Perhaps not.  The absence of flying didn't prevent the Victorians from throwing up their dark satanic mills and city slums did it?

But still, what would it do to our world if the skies remained blue and silent and empty?

Dream or nightmare, what do you think?

36 comments:

  1. Our skies are mostly blue and silent and empty. But then we are in a little country town, not on a flight path to anywhere. If there is a noise in the sky, it is a medical evacuation helicopter. A crop sprayer. Or 'more money than sense'. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go. Volcanologists say, it could be months. 200 years ago, there were no airports to be closed.

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  2. I wondered about that too. Over here all is normal - we don't see to many planes, never hear them as they are too high. In this vast country we'd have to re-develop our rain , and that would be a very good thing.

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  3. Elizabeth, do you think that Somebody up there is trying to tell us something?

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  4. Anything that slows the world down from its frantic pace is a good thing.

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  5. It would make very little difference to me personally. We don't have to fly now, so we don't. I much prefer the idea of getting on a train, although we do our fair (or unfair) share of driving.

    Perhaps African and other nations could then grow their own food, instead of our beans and flowers,which might take some of the hunger out of the world.

    Once the clouds have gone, the planes will be back.

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  6. I've loved today. Normally we have a plane from Heathrow growl over every minute or so. Today the clearest blue sky and it's as if I've just been cured of tinnitus.
    And happy not to travel by plane. Next week I'm taking a trip by ferry and train. Though I could fly in half the time, the journey would be a chore I'd be dreading; instead it's an adventure I'm anticipating.

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  7. I think it is an excellent idea to slow down a bit, to be a bit less. Less busy, less strressed, less tired all the time. Slower is good and definitley quieter!

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  8. We live under the flight paths of many eastern United States airports -- but far out in the country. I never thought about noise from those air planes until 911. During the time our air space was shut down, I found my husband could hear me as we talked across the yard. There was silence I only remember as a child.

    Heaven forbid that we should have another national emergency, but I treasured those days of quiet and clean skies.

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  9. We do have quite a number of planes over us, but they are very high up and cause no noise. For us it's the non-striped sky which is so pleasant. We did have a hot-air balloon over yesterday; maybe that'll be the travel choice of the future. We should all enjoy the calm whilst we may.

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  10. A world without flight? Unlikely, but this is a timely reminder of how spoilt we are allowing ourselves to become, in both senses of the world.
    I go to the UK from the Czech Republic once or twice a year, usually with other family members. In the 1990s for financial reasons we used one of the bus connections taking between 20 and 24 hours for the trip from Prague to central London. From there we had to travel on by train. Sometimes they were not very pleasant experiences but they were experiences, not just journeys. Today we have a plane journey from Prague to a local UK airport in less than half a day from door to door in less than half a day including all the waiting around at airports. Now there is little difference in price between the two options. I am not saying that one or other is better but seeing it as travelling and a mere journey is different.
    I hope that we use situations like this to remind us how and why we go from one place to another and back to this place, to open our eyes to how easy things have become for us and to consider alternatives. Maybe we have become richer in some senses but poorer with our time.
    Enjoy your travels be they local or international...Tramp

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  11. You have obviously never gone anywhere on a Eurolines bus !

    But I agree with you. A lot of business trips could be carried out over the phone or internet . We don't need to have runner beans flown in from Egypt , we don't need fly to the Seychelles for a 10day holiday .
    Come to that the young could still backpack in Thailand , it would just take them longer to get there and they'd see more along the way .
    And Eurolines would run a bus there too soon enough , if they thought there a demand .

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  12. I have to say a world without flying wouldnt be that big a deal for me. Though saying that I am taking my sons to Italy in July for their first overseas hol but then again we could always get a train and I suspect travelling by train is more exxciting as you get to see the changing landscape. We could still have goods from Africa/Asia etc as much comes by ship anyway. Maybe as you say we would appreciate our own space more which would be a good thing

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  13. Think how pleased UK seaside landladies would be!

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  14. It is weird to see clear or even hazy, blue skies without vapour trails. I wonder how long it will last. It could be weeks and will cause financial ruin to some I guess.

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  15. It is not odd for us to see cloudless skies free of vapour trails where we live but when we had to go to the Uk last week we noticed lack of bird song( it was drowned out by traffic ) and terrible noise pollution a lot! Here people enjoy living in their commune and rarely stray further than Brittany , they prefer to buy local and in season.It is one of the reasons we love it here so much. People ahve become greedy adn want things now and that includes getting from a to be in double quick time. Roll back teh clock I say it may not ssave the palnet but it might save a bit of sanity for its occupants many of whom, especailly in the western world might benefit form learning to be still.

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  16. I don't fly much, but I enjoy all the perks that flying crafts bring to us. And with our world economy... my husband flies for business a lot. Many US companies are foreign owned and these owners won't make it for the meeting tomorrow : )
    I did feel bad for my daughter and son-in-law as their European vacation was canceled just as they were preparing to leave yesterday. It had been a year in the planning with many hours spent reserving hostels, rental cars,connecting flights and dog-sitters. They took it in good nature and will travel within the US for now.

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  17. I had a very similar conversation with the farmer this morning over breakfast. We are on the flight path for Newcastle and Tees valley airports and although the planes are still high they leave masses of vapour trails - for the last few days there have been none. I was horrified to read the huge amount of air freighted food which came in daily - although not sure I could manage with pineapples.
    But on a serious note - I do think maybe we have come to rely on very fast travel far too much - I do rather fancy life in the slow lane, like it used to be.

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  18. Yes, you summed it up for me too. Very strange not to see the jet trails of planes on Atlantic crossings.

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  19. You've said most eloquently what I was thinking. It really is something to ponder.

    Your friend Friko is absolutely spot on about the food dilemma Africa faces. The west sends out food to them...and they grow food for us. Crazy.

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  20. I've been wondering about those who live in Heathrow's flight paths - so read Frugilegus's comment with interest.

    I feel cut off and in a state of low-level anxiety about all this. My kids are half a world away and it has always niggled at me that if I needed to get to them in a hurry, it would still take at least 24 hours. Now I can't get to them at all, and irrationally, this just pumps up the volume of my fears.

    But it's a sobering reminder that we are not in control of the natural world, and would do well to consider alternatives to how we live, dependent on shipments from all over the world. And if it weren't for all the noxious stuff being pumped into the air in Iceland, we'd have given the earth a little more breathing space from the lack of carbon emissions in the last 4 days!

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  21. These last few days have been strange. Cloudless skies and a certain quietness. This morning I took our stay-over friends on a high walk up to the wind turbines on Cae'r Mynydd which in deference perhaps to the empty skies were not turning (there was no wind) and everything was eerily still. I could live without planes, though it would be sad not to be able to cross the Atlantic easily.

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  22. I have loved the empty skies in Pembrokeshire; but we can't turn back progress and I think I wouldn't want to - but some restraint would be good too.

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  23. Elephant's eye - as you say, the experts seem to say it might last for quite a while. It will be interesting to see what happens.
    Pondside - your country is so vast it would be hard to manage without flight I suppose, but a revitalised train system might be a good alternative anyway.
    Molly - you can't help but wonder can you?
    Fran - I agree that we need to slow down (although I also feel Deborah's anxiety below)!
    Friko - I am sure you are right that the planes will be back but the point you make about Africa is interesting. As Tessa says, the current system has to be crazy.

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  24. Frugilegus - I agree with you about the adventure of other forms of travel. Perhaps because I have done so much business travel I have had enough of flying and try to avoid it if I can.
    Tattie - slow is good. It is interesting to see how many responses indicate a yearning for a slower pace.
    Anon - it is interesting isn't it? No one wants an emergency or a disaster but those quiet skies do have an allure.
    LM - the hot air balloon, now that's an idea.
    Tramp - we have grown spoilt haven't we? I do wish we could grow used to less.

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  25. Very interesting perspective and question.
    I don't fly - but all of those related issues certainly are important. I surely would miss the fresh veggies in winter (I live in the North east US with long winters) perhaps hot houses would become more popular.

    Would the African's then be able to feed more of their own?

    I live under the flight path of the airport in my town. I know in one way I would sleep better (i live about 150 yards from where a plane crashed into a home last year)We still have nightmares when planes fly over head.

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  26. I think we would cope and perhaps life would be a little more laidback -- not a bad thing at all. But the initial result would be chaos.

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  27. In this part of France there is not the rush and hustle of other areas. The Bretons dont go far. Our neighbour has just bought a holiday house on the coast, an hour away! They are thrilled with it.
    We cant fly now, so it doesnt affect us....but it would indirectly if all planes were grounded for long. I dont think I'd mind going back a bit.

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  28. Mmmmmm - an interesting post Elizabeth. Not being able to fly is not a problem for me as I never have. Have a fear of being shut in a tin can and not being able to get off. Enjoying the peace as we are under the flight path to Liverpool Airport. However if this state of affairs continues it will certainly not only have severe economic consequences but will also change the world we live in.

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  29. Heaven. I think. I love these empty skies. And wont miss Kenyan vegetables in the slightest as we never eat them anyway. But, oh, not to be able to 'nip' over to USA or Australia to visit friends and family. Its the friends and family I would miss horribly... not the holidays or heat or cultures. Good question! Got me thinking....

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  30. Tramp - I love your distinction between flying and travel. I have often felt that when travelling by car or ferry across Europe. You have such a strong sense of the countries changing as you move South or East. Flying just dumps you in a new culture so that you lose the sense of the impact of geography.
    S&S - exactly. We don't need in any real sense to do so much of the travel which we regard almost as our right.
    PG - I dont live a life where I need to fly and probably wouldn't miss it at all. But then there are those who depend on it for the vital connection with family, including my own daughter in law whose links with her native Newfoundland are vital for her well being. Perhaps without the power of flight she would never have found herself so far from home.

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  31. Certainly food for thought Elizabeth. We are under the flight path between Melbourne and Sydney and sometimes there are so many vapour trails it's like grafitti in the sky. Particularly when the planes need to kill some time due to airports being fogged in, then they circle overhead and you get some amazing patterns.
    All I can say is, just as well Internet providers aren't affected or we would really be in trouble. No blogging, no surfing the net, now that would be serious!!

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  32. Ah, vapour trails back again today, Elizabeth. Although I can't say I missed them. Hopefully, this experience will have made people think a bit more about how much we take things like easy air travel for granted. We can but hope - unfortunately I fear it will all be forgotten once everything will have gone back to normal. Feel slightly annoyed at the thought of taxpayers having to fork out to bring stranded tourists home courtesy of the Royal Navy, though. Perhaps Gordon's hoping they'll all vote for him. Curmudge, curmudge...

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  33. Ah well, the skies are full again but it is fascinating to me how many people expressed the wish for a slower life.

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  34. Think of all the fuel waste and wear and tear on our vehicles if we all had to drive fourteen hours to visit Mom... ugh.

    Give me back the planes!

    Also - I am an aeronautical radio operator. No planes, no job.

    Planes, please.

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  35. I liked the silence over Hamburg these days.

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  36. We are all still getting the ground ready here in Maine.
    We had so much rain, Those look like great books.

    thanks for the tip.

    yvonne

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